By: Violet Hunt (1862-1942)
An amusing but deeply poignant story, “The Last Ditch” describes the wartime experiences of a British aristocratic family who gradually realize that their old feudal perquisites are passing away in the trenches of the Great War and that unprecedented new forces are pushing out the comfortable old ways. Lady Arles is the matriarch determined to resist to her last breath. Her bohemian young daughter Venice is set on a career as a poet and even dallies with a Socialist lover, but in some ways is the family member who seems the most helpless without her old aristocratic privileges. Another daughter Ilsa brings scandal after scandal to the family because of her endless sexual flings, incorrigible almost to the last page. Audley Bar, beloved by at least two of the Ladies Arles, is the ennui-laden aristocratic adventurer, determined despite his middle age to go forth to war and do his bit, especially after one young friend after another dies on the Western Front. Author Violet Hunt pokes ironical, affectionate fun at her old-fashioned cast of characters, but as an ardent feminist and free-thinker finds ways to show her profound sympathies for the rising poor of England, the previously unprivileged who were finding some new freedoms in the passing of the Old Order. Her novel published while the seemingly endless War was still in full force, Hunt deftly sketches a portrait of a very human family, harrowed by loss and adrift in a new world.